According to the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) and FMCSA, the U.S reported 273,000 accidents involving trucks in 2011. 210,000 of these crashes resulted in property damage only, while around 60,000 caused more than property damage. It means many people sustain injuries or die due to truck crashes annually.
If you’re a victim of a truck crash and the accident has harmed you physically, emotionally, socially, financially, and mentally, you qualify to recover damages for the crash. At Dallas Horton & Associates, we understand that the most critical element in attaining maximum reimbursement is knowing all the types of compensation available for victims of truck crashes. In this article, we highlight the various forms of compensation you are entitled to in Las Vegas.
Filing a Truck Crash Suit in Las Vegas
The process of recovering damages from the individuals responsible commences right after the crash. We encourage you to seek medical examination whether you have any visible injuries after the crash or not. After, you should contact an injury attorney to begin pursuing compensation from individuals whose negligence led to your injuries. Most cases are settled outside through negotiations, but sometimes, if the parties don’t agree, the case proceeds to court.
The first step your attorney should take is to forward a demand letter to the individuals liable for your harm and losses. These persons include:
- The trucking company or owner
- The truck driver
- Truck manufacturer if the accident was due to manufacturing faults
- The auto repair shop charged with truck maintenance
- Local or state government agency in charge of the road where the crash occurred. This is usually the case where hazardous road conditions were the cause of an accident.
All parties understand the risk associated with resolving personal injury cases in court, so they will do their best to avoid litigation.
Unfortunately, trucking companies often blame the accident on the victims, so negotiations are not always fruitful. In cases like these, your attorney must file a civil suit against the defendants. However, even if you move to court, you can continue the negotiations. This is because by filing a suit, you put the insurer of the liable party under a lot of pressure, forcing them to make a complete settlement offer.
Whether you go the negotiation or civil lawsuit way, you must collect evidence from substantiating your claims. The evidence you must introduce in negotiations or trial are:
- Video footage from the accident stage
- Medical reports, bills, and medical professional’s testimonies
- Statements or testimonies from eyewitnesses
- Accident reconstruction professional’s testimony
- A police report from the crash
- Weather report for the day of the accident
Your attorney has the duty to prove by a majority of the discovery that the defendant(s), in this case, the responsible parties were the cause of your harm, as the plaintiff. If the court’s ruling is in your favor, you will be awarded compensatory damages or even punitive damages in some cases. You might not receive the compensation right after the court’s decision because the defendant can appeal the decision, further delaying your compensation.
However, you still have hope for maximum compensation if you work closely with a truck accident injury attorney. These professionals understand the evidence you need to win the case and the tricks used by trucking companies to deny claims, meaning you will likely win the case than when you pursue compensation in person. Besides, they know how to negotiate with insurers and fight them before a jury if a settlement is not arrived at initially. Further, insurance firms are likely to settle when they see an experienced injury attorney by your side.
Truck Collision Elements
As a plaintiff, you can bring multiple causes of action against the individuals who caused you harm, depending on the facts of the case. The common truck accident claim elements in Las Vegas, your attorney must prove are:
1. The Defendant Was Negligent
Your attorney must prove that the defendant was answerable or owed you an obligation of care. However, they violated this obligation, and because of this breach of the onus of care, you sustained injuries.
Commercial vehicle drivers and, in this case, truckers owe other road users the onus of care by operating the big rig safely. If they fail to do so by driving while distracted or when tired and, as a result, cause an accident that injures you or someone else, then they should be held accountable for their action.
2. Negligence Per Se
A big rig driver is responsible for a truck collision under the negligence per se rule if they hit other motorists, passengers, and pedestrians. When seeking reimbursement under this rule, you must demonstrate that:
- The liable had the onus to adhere to the law
- You, as the claimant, is among the individuals the law is designed to protect
- The liable party violated the law provision.
- The breach of the law by the defendant was the proximate causation of the crash.
Note that most defendants in cases where you must prove negligence per se element are truck drivers. The law requires them to keep other road users safe by obeying traffic rules and other laws designed to protect all road users. Therefore, if the big rig driver responsible for your crash disregarded traffic rules and consequently caused a crash, you must prove this element.
Also, to prove this element in your case, you must have sustained physical harm or property damage, and there must be a relationship between the driver’s flouting of safety rules and your harm.
3. Respondeat Superior
As per the Respondeat Superior Law in Nevada, even when the truck driver was the reason for the collision, the driver’s employer, who might be a truck owner or a company, can take responsibility for the driver’s action, known as Vicarious liability. When proving this element, you must show that the commercial vehicle driver that caused your injuries is an employee of a trucking company, who, in this case, are the defendants. And at the time the crash occurred, the driver was acting under the scope of their duties as employees of the company and that the driver’s actions were the cause of the crash.
The reason for proving this element is because truck drivers don’t have the deep pockets and insurance policies that allow them to compensate you after causing an accident. Therefore, if they perform their duties as outlined in their work description, you should go after the employer because their extensive policy coverages allow for maximum compensation.
4. Strict Product Liability
If the truck collision happened on its own, your attorney would consider manufacturing defects as the cause of the crash. In these cases, the truck manufacturer will be the party to blame for the crash if:
- The big rig had a design, production, or warning error
- The fault or error was there even when the truck was leaving the manufacturer’s hands
- The defendant used the truck or parts reasonably for the foreseeable future
- The default led to your injuries or property damage
5. Wrongful Death
If a loved one lost their life due to a truck crash, you could file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation. However, to obtain the compensation, you must prove that the victim lost their life because of wrongful acts or negligence by the liable party, and you, as the descendant of the deceased, suffered mental or monetary harm due to the crash.
Forms of Compensations Available in Truck Collisions
Truck collisions can have detrimental effects on several aspects of your life. You may develop medical complications, suffer monetary losses, trauma, and loss of earnings. These might lower your quality of living, so there is a provision in the law to allow you to pursue compensation to live a more comfortable and enjoyable life under the new normal. The compensation available for these crashes take the following forms:
Otherwise called economic damages, special damages are the primary class of monetary damages available for victims of truck collisions. These damages show tangible effects of the injuries like loss of income, medical expenses, and property damages. They seek to reimburse you for any losses that have a dollar value.
Also called general damages, non-economic damages are those losses that you can’t attach a dollar value to because they are intangible. They include mental anguish, emotional distress, and psychosocial harm that may stem from the collision.
Damages Available in Your Truck Crash Suit
If you’ve been harmed in a truck crash, you can seek compensation for:
1. Medical Bills
If someone else is liable for your accident and consequent injuries, they will be responsible for your hospital expenses. However, as mentioned earlier, the defendant might not have the money or extensive insurance coverage to compensate for all your losses. In these cases, you can go after your motor vehicle insurer as provided under the uninsured motorist policy to pay for your damages.
Uninsured motorist insurance protects motorists in a crash where the liable party doesn’t have an insurance policy, while underinsured coverage steps in when the defendant has a low liability limit or when the liability limit is less or equal to your underinsured motorist coverage limit. The insurer of the defendant will pay up to the policy limit then the rest of the money will be paid by your underinsured policy.
Regardless of the party to blame for the crash, the insurer might deny the claim or have the adjuster delay payments hoping that you will stop pursuing compensation or settle for a lesser amount. And because you will need treatment right after the accident, you must find a way to settle your medical costs before the liable party can pay compensation.
You can rely upon the Nevada health insurance policy or a government program like Medicare. Alternatively, you can use the Nevada Med Pay auto insurance coverage or medical examination from a medical practitioner willing to accept a lien on a property in exchange for immediate treatment. Finding a medical expert willing to work on a lien means they are willing to withhold the payment until you receive compensation from the defendant.
Despite the formula you use to settle your medical bills, you should keep proper records of the payment receipts and records because they will be used to estimate the total amount spent on treatment.
And because most truck accident injuries are life-changing or catastrophic, you might require future medical care, meaning you must estimate how much it will cost to treat your truck accident medical conditions in the future. By doing so, you will obtain maximum reimbursement that will pay for the existing medical bills and even those you will incur in the future.
It’s worth noting that even if a loved one receives treatment but loses their life after, you could still claim medical expenses as the descendants of the deceased for the financial costs incurred in paying for treatment until the day of demise. Further, you can file a wrongful death claim for the death of a loved one caused by the negligent party.
If you win medical bills compensation and your insurance company has paid for your medical bills, they have a right to obtain reimbursement if the case is settled out of court or win the claim in court. The right by the insurance company to receive compensation for the medical costs they had provided coverage for before compensation from the defendant’s insurer is known as the subrogation right. The private firm or government has no right to claim compensation from you if the claim is lost or the amount agreed in the settlement is not enough to pay the whole medical bill.
Sometimes, the private insurer or the government might even sue the liable party on your behalf to ensure you receive compensation so that they can obtain their share for the medical bills they footed.
When it comes to medical bills, don’t accept the first offer from the liable party’s insurer because the amount might not be enough to cover your medical bills. Also, taking the first offer might mean settling for a lesser amount, or you can turn to court to sue the insurance company. Therefore, you should keep a profound injury attorney by your side because they will evaluate the case, find out its strengths and weaknesses, and understand your bargaining position. These individuals will even negotiate with medical professionals for reduced bills or hold on payment until you obtain compensation.
2. Lost Wages and Future Earning Capacity
Truck collisions can leave you out of work for months and sometimes permanently. If this happens, Nevada law allows you to claim compensation for loss of income. Obtaining this compensation isn’t easy because you must document and prove the existence of wages. Lost wages include the total of:
- Your regular pay
- Overtime pay
- Self-employment revenue
- Leave or sick days used up at the time you were absent.
To prove you have lost wages, you can obtain a lost income letter from your employer or seek proof from paystubs where the employer is unwilling to write the letter. However, if you are self-employed, there will be no employer or pay stubs to turn to demonstrate your lost wages. In that case, you will need:
- Tax returns from previous years
- Your income statement for the month before the truck collision or harm
- If your income is complex to prove, you can use a forensic accounting expert to give expert testimony.
If you rely on tips as part of your income, you can still claim these in your lost wages, but if you declare them in your income taxes or your employer tracks them. You can prove these losses through a letter from the employer or bank deposits for the tips received.
An experienced injury attorney will help you seek compensation for loss of earning capacity if the injury hinders your ability to work in the future. Loss of earning potential seeks reimbursement for the amount you could have earned in the future if you continued working. You should claim these damages within the limitations period, which is two years in Nevada.
The amount of compensation you will obtain for loss of future earning potential depends on several aspects like:
- The duration of your injuries
- Whether there is the hope of returning to work
- Your age and life expectancy
- Your health before the truck collision
- The years remaining before your retirement
- Promotion chances in your specialty
- Any pay rise you might receive
- Whether your income is fixed or performance-based
Lost wages and future earning capabilities seek to compensate for the income you could be generating if the truck accident had not occurred.
3. Mental and Bodily Pain and Anguish
Remember, most truck accident injuries are life-changing and catastrophic. You are likely to live with physical pain and mental anguish for the rest of your life because of the accident, and this is why there is a provision in the law to compensate for these non-economic damages. The amount awarded doesn’t take the pain away, but the only way the Nevada justice system can protect you is through compensation.
In Las Vegas, general damages are capped at $350,000 regardless of the number of claimants or defendants. And because it’s difficult to attach a dollar value to these losses, proving these damages is subjective because you need to convince the relevant parties like the jury, defendant, or insurance firm that you suffered them to obtain compensation.
You will need medical records like x-rays and other visual medical results to demonstrate to the jury what the collision or injuries subjected you to. Even where there are no visible physical injuries, you can still convince the jury to award these damages, but you will need a comprehensive medical report. So, when seeking treatment after the accident, ensure that your doctor takes comprehensive notes of your injuries and recommended treatment. Your attorney can even explain to the doctor the kind of information about the treatment they would like to see captured in the report to make it easy to prove pain and suffering.
Similarly, you can capture before and after images or videos to illustrate these losses. If you are undergoing rehabilitative therapy, you can record some of your sessions to demonstrate to the jury what you had to go through because of the collision. However, before you videotape these professionals, you must ask for their consent because their testimony might be required in court.
Besides, your social media posts, emails, and texts can play a critical role in obtaining these benefits. For example, you can join a group of individuals dealing with a particular type of pain of PTSD stemming from accidents to support your physician’s testimony that you’re dealing with severe pain or mental anguish.
Your friends, family, doctor, or therapist can testify in court to your suffering. These individuals can explain the activities you dropped because of the accident to convince the jury or insurance adjuster to increase compensation. Writing down your feelings every day throughout your recovery journey can also ease the process of attaching a dollar value to mental anguish and physical pain.
4. Loss of Life Enjoyment
Occupants of the other vehicle involved in a truck collision usually suffer the most severe injuries that leave them confined to a wheelchair or scratches for the rest of their lives. So, if you are among these individuals, you will stop participating in the activities that made your life enjoyable, like sports, partying, dancing, hiking, and other recreational activities. In case of paralysis, you might not take part in sexual activities, which can have detrimental effects on your overall wellbeing and life.
If you can attach a value for the missed life enjoyment opportunities, you can claim these damages in your truck collision claim. However, where you can’t value these missed opportunities, it will be up to the court to decide on the amount to award based on the case’s facts.
5. Punitive Damages
Punitive damages are awarded for the actual damages incurred in the truck collision. These damages are intended to rebuke the defendant for their conduct that resulted in the truck accident. In addition, your attorney must demonstrate that the defendant or liable party manifested gross misconduct or misbehavior when the crash occurred.
6. Wrongful Death Claims
According to the U.S. Department of Transport statistics, of all the fatal accidents involving big rigs in 2011 alone, 3,757 were fatal. In total, there were 394 fatalities caused by truck collisions in Nevada between 1999 and 2009, meaning several lives are lost annually because of these crashes. The descendants or heirs of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim to pursue compensation for:
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of financial support
- Loss of consortium
- Medical bills incurred before the demise
Find the Right Las Vegas Truck Injury Attorney
If you have been seriously injured by a trucker in Las Vegas, our trucking accident attorneys at Dallas Horton & Associates can help you fight to obtain finances incurred in covering doctor bills and lost income. Although results are not guaranteed, we do our best to ensure you aren’t denied compensation as liable parties point the finger at each other. Call us today at 702-380-3100 for a free consultation.